Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, Cliff Shelf Nature Trail Parking Area, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail - 0.5 miles

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail Parking Area

View of the Badland Wall meeting the Lower Plains

View of the Badland Wall meeting the Lower Plains

Round-Trip Length: 0.5 miles (Loop Trail)
Start-End Elevation: 2,635' - 2,635' (2,716' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +88' total roundtrip elevation gain
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail - 0.5 Miles Round-Trip

This interesting interpretive loop trail passes through one of the Badlands' few heavily vegetated areas. A rare oasis in an otherwise stark and unforgiving landscape, the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail offers visitors a brief respite from the elements and a fulfilling educational experience.

A towering badland formation above the trail steers water into a shallow basin, enabling a unique wealth and diversity of vegetation to flourish in a relatively confined space. Juniper trees dominate the trailside, along with an uncommon variety of grasses and small shrubs.

Interpretive literature can be acquired a few steps from the trailhead (please adhere to the honor system and pay the required fee) - this is highly recommended as the information within corresponds to 15 marked points along the trail and enriches the overall experience.

Of particular interest is the vicinity's geologic history, most notably the towering formation above Cliff Shelf that in fact was once a riverbed - the lowest point in the area!

Dawn and dusk hikers should be on the lookout for wildlife, as all animals are drawn to the area's shade, water and protection.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N43 45.028 W101 55.864 — 0.0 Miles: Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Shaded and easily walked, this trail is ideal for escaping midday heat.

Directions to Trailhead

The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail Parking Area is located approximately 1 mile north of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on Highway 240 (Badlands Loop Road). The trailhead is on the east side of the road.

Contact Information

Badlands National Park
25216 Ben Reifel Road
P.O. Box 6
Interior, SD 57750

Park Headquarters

By Fax

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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